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Friday, July 30, 2010

False Alarm

One hour after my worried post, Elaine came waltzing in, screaming for her Friday Fancy Feast.  (Six days a week she gets vet prescribed kibble.)  Whew!  I'd like her to wait, if she can, until after my mother goes.  One ticket at a time, please.

Coming Home?

Elaine has been gone 20 hours.  We don't remember if she went out, but she is not answering in the house.  (Oh, please, however this ends, let it not be with a small rotting body hidden somewhere in the storage room!)  I keep burbling on about the sandwich generation, but I forgot that you're smushed in their with your pets, too.  :(

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sandwiched

The sandwich generation – I have been a member for a good 25 years now, a tasty tidbit situated between two pieces of bread. Think of a roast beef with mushrooms mixed in sour cream inside a baguette. (I had a sandwich like that once at the Portrait Gallery, and it was amazing!) I am the roast beef. The sour cream and mushrooms are tutoring, dancing, volunteering, reading, lunchin with friend. The bottom half of the baguette is my children, their families and my grandchildren. The top half is my Mom, the only one left of that generation of the sandwich.

I had a call last night from the Hospice social worker. I wasn’t expecting it. Well, I had no expectations. She wanted to set up a meeting with Mom and me next week. I can’t be there: our son, David, and his fiancĂ©e (known in the family, but unbeknownst to her, as The Lovely Dana) are flying in from Sacramento to visit our daughter and family in Muncie, and we’re going too. (Woot!)

My sister, however, will be visiting my Mother, and she’ll be at the meeting. The social worker talked to me for a bit, asking about our plan for Mom’s inevitable decline and about funeral arrangements. I was unaware that we had plans, but, little by little, with straightforward and gentle questioning, she pulled the answers from me. Turns out, we do have plans. We are good.

The social worker tell me that the nurses rave about Mom and about how amazing it is she lives on her own. It may be amazing to them, but it’s been a pain in the neck for us. She doesn’t want to hire anyone to do anything, and that leaves the three sibs, the closest of whom lives 45 minutes away. Mom’s a tough cookie, though, and she’s trained us well. The nice way to say it is that she is difficult. Like my cat. (No, I didn’t say the cat part to the social worker.) If there is anyone who is able to survive on will power alone, it is my 98 ¾-year-old mother.

David called his Nanny yesterday. Stephanie is on vacation and couldn’t get a call in. She’s concerned she’ll miss her chance for one last conversation, but she still has some time. No one checked the box labeled “Quick and Easy Death.”
So there we are, pulled in one direction and pushed in another. Being part of the sandwich generation keeps your mind and body running around chasing your, or someone’s tail (okay, that begs the sandwich metaphor, but bear with me.) Up to now, I visited my Mom monthly, and we try to go see the grandchildren three or four times a year. We fly to California once a year to see our son. They come our way a couple of times a year. Steve and I have regular activities; he works. The scheduling can be a nightmare. But it’s only painful when the invisible hand of life grabs the baguette and squeezes.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Cat Came Back

When we moved into this house, 18 years ago, we had two cats, Kirk and Spock. (This tells you something about me, doesn't it?) Kirk, a beautiful, tawny long-hair of sanguine temperment, died two years after we moved in, when he was ten years old. I liked having two cats, to keep each other company, so we got an adorable calico kitten. We named her Elaine after my duaghter's first D&D character, an amazon warrior. The plan was to name the next cat Mast after my son's first character, a dwarf. (Now you know a lot about the entire family.) The further plan was that, our male cats regularly dying at ten years old, we would be cat-free by the time our son graduated from college and we were ready for heavy travel. Ah, plans, such lovely, ephemeral things.

Elaine, like many female calicos it turns out, is tempermental. This is a civilized way of saying she has a terrible personality. When Spock, a bunny-soft Himalayan, died two years later, I went through adopting a series of second cats. It wasn't that Elaine fought with them; I could waited that out until she adjusted. Instead, she simply spent more and more time outdoors, coming home less and less frequently for meals. With each cat, she began to go feral. I couldn't take the guilt. I found homes for each in turn until I finally gave up. Elaine wanted to be an only cat.

Not only is Elaine tempermental with other cats (although she does all right with calm dogs), she is tempermental with people. She is not cuddly and scratches with little or no provocation. She's 16 now and a little more pleasant, but not much.

Five years ago -- AFTER ELAINE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD -- we had the opportunity to live in Moscow, Russia for two years. Talk about travel! We couldn't store our belongings and rent out the house because OF THE CAT. We couldn't farm out the cat because she is so mean. We had to make elaborate plans dealing with a succession of house-sitters because of the cat. Yes, we are nuts, but I couldn't put down a perfectly good cat. I love that stupid cat, and she loves me.

Last night I let Elaine out. Her habit is to take long naps on the screened in porch with, perhaps, a short constitutional around the yard via her pet door. It was a pleasant evening, so we left the door ajar for her. We closed and locked it when we went to bed.

This morning, no Elaine on the porch. Had she come in last night? I didn't remember. Steve didn't remember. But she wasn't around to scream, per usual, for her treat (a tablespoon of evaporated milk) with breakfast. She wasn't meowing for it when I came home at lunch. While I have been prepared for her to die any time during the past six years, right now, while we're trying to manage my mother's care, is not a good time for Elaine to take the final dive.

BUT, around 2:00 this afternoon, she emerged from somewhere, some hidden cat-sized cavern in the house, and meandered over for a head rub and cheek scratch. She's OKAY! Hooray!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Big Toe Woe

My mother doesn’t think I’m old enough to have arthritis. Now my mother is 98 3/4 but thinks of herself as about 75. She thinks of me as, well, if not six, then about 30. No matter what she thinks, I do have arthritis. I have it in my big toe. It doesn’t bother me often, but, when it does, let’s just say it’s difficult to avoid your big toe.

I have a friend who is an arthritis expert, and among the advice she has given me, she says to cut out carbonated beverages and to massage the arthritic area to break down the offending crystals.

I say, “No diet root beer? NO DIET ROOT BEER?” It’s not that I don’t already know carbonated beverages are bad for you and that diet drinks are worse, it’s just that I will really be a grumpier person without my diet root beer. Now, however, I am committed to, if not cutting it out altogether, then cutting way back. The only thing I might substitute for rootbeer is wine, and while a glass of wine may be good for me, substituting 2 or 3 glasses for the equal amount of diet root beer will not only leave me not grumpy, it will leave me comatose.

Then there’s the massage part. This is my big toe where it meets the ball of the foot. It’s difficult to get a grip on. And sometimes massaging it hurts. However, I also love, love, love my ballet classes (subject for a whole new blog entry), and so you may picture me in front of The Big Bang Theory, foot torked onto my lap, offending toe trying to escape it's fubdown. We’ll see how this goes.

I should tell you that concurrently with starting this blog, my mother (she of giant personality) has quit teaching tap dancing and entered Hospice care. (Well, my sibs and I always knew these two events would go hand in hand.) This is perhaps not the optimum time to begin a blog, but, then again, maybe it is.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hello and How Do You Do

I am older than I was. Yes, it's true, and, I've noticed, it keeps going that way. It's not enough, though, for me to simply be on the journey. I am compelled to narrate every step along the way. I've started this Blog to observe, reflect upon and laugh about the process of aging. Not always the most pleasant process, but, let's face it, the alternatives aren't that great either. I'll reflect on everything from retirement to grandchildren to retirement.

C'mon, it'll be fun. I know, I know; you don't think it will be fun, but it will be!